Best lemon cake ever

Well, IMHO anyway. I’ve been making this for years. And years. Originally tore it out of a magazine. It’s by Nigel Slater so that already tells you it’s going to be good but not overly fancy. I’m a big fan of Nigel’s writing and recipes – he does simplicity so beautifully. I’m not a cake decorator – my usual attempts tend to look somewhat messy, I haven’t really ever progressed past the fluffing up of buttercream with a fork and sprinkling over some decorations, so for me this is the perfect cake – plain looking but delicious nonetheless.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Ingredients:

200g butter
200g caster sugar
zest of two large or three small lemons
200g self raising flour
3 free range eggs

125g demerara sugar
juice of the lemons

Preheat oven to 180C/ 160C fan or GM4

Line a 20cm round tin ( I have also made this in a loaf tin but you will need to increase the cooking time by a further 15 minutes).

Cream together the butter & sugar till fluffy. Add the lemon zest and stir well. Add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of the flour and then fold rest of the flour into the mixture.

Spoon into the cake tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, measure out the demerara sugar and add the lemon juice to dissolve the sugar. As soon as the cake is baked and removed from the oven, stab the cake all over with a fork and pour over the lemon & sugar mix. This will soak into the cake whilst it’s hot and form a lovely crust.

Leave cake to cool in the tin, then turn out and eat. Perfectly delicious plain, it’s also rather nice with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Variations on a theme:

This recipe also works well using a whole orange instead of the lemons. I also make a gluten free version, using 3 limes and adding in 3 large tablespoons of plain yogurt to counteract the more drying quality of the gluten free flour, and also adding 2 heaped tsp of gluten free baking powder. See also the alternative Christmas cake recipe posted on this site – using spices and clementines.

Do try it. It’s super easy and I’ve never known anyone not like it, yet!

Picture of lemon cake

Lemon Drizzle, not a looker but tastes fab!

Resolutions for food lovers

These are personal to me, but you might find inspiration!

What am I eating? Read those labels. Ask the questions. If buying a sauce in a jar, read the ingredients and choose one containing stuff you’ve actually heard of… e.g a 440g jar of value pasta sauce costs 39p but contains water, maize starch and calcium chloride (yum).  Buy a 500g pack of value Passata at 34p, add a crushed garlic clove, pepper and some herbs. Simmer slowly. Much better.

Grow herbs & salad leaves. One of the biggest food waste culprits for supermarkets is pre-packed salad. 68% of salad in bags is binned (source: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/21/food-waste-tesco-reveals-most-bagged-salad-and-half-its-bread-is-thrown-out) An average bag of pre-packed salad costs around £1.50 for 200g. A packet of cut and come again salad leaf seeds costs between 99p and £1.50. Sown in succession in shallow troughs, (window boxes are perfect), you can harvest your own mixed salad for months. Alternatively, ditch the pre washed stuff (mostly washed in chlorine – mmm), and pick up a whole lettuce for around 60p. Wash the outer leaves – use in soup, and eat the centre sweeter leaves raw in salads. Herbs add joy to a meal and need little effort to cultivate, as most will grow quite happily in pots. Even if you start with a pot from the supermarket shelves, decant into a bigger pot with plenty of added compost and watch it thrive. I managed to keep a pot of basil going for 5 months this summer, not bad for a 79p investment! Good herbs to grow for kitchen use include: bay, rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, marjoram and basil.

Eat seasonal – of course it’s not practical to solely eat seasonally, but think about what you are purchasing and try to enjoy the fruit and vegetable bounties at the appropriate time. Strawberries in June are always going to taste much better than in December, Asparagus should be celebrated for the joyous seasonal speciality that it is and gorged on during May and June. Hydroponically grown tomatoes in February are really not going to taste as good as the ones on sale in September following a season of sun ripening. Make the most of gluts and get bottling/ jamming/ ginning!

Eat kind, choose free range, organic meat where possible. Eat it less often so you can afford the extra it costs – although I purchase all my beef and lamb from a local organic farm – www.forsterorganicmeats.com and they often undercut the prices in the supermarkets and it tastes and cooks SO much better. Respect the animal and use it all, don’t just use selected bits.  Support fair trade producers of sugar, coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas. Use free-range eggs.

Support local – there are lots of small and even not so small food & drink producers in your local area. Give them support. Go to your butcher. Visit your baker. Locate your independent wine seller.  Find out when the farmer’s markets are on. Even a once a month purchase will help, and you might just enjoy the process of having a chat with the food person and feeling that you’re making an informed choice.

Explore your locality, seems obvious but be a tourist in your own backyard. Step away from the usual coffee chains and try that little café you keep passing. It might be rubbish, but it also might be fantastic! Make it a resolution to try an independent restaurant, not a Brake Brothers delivery point of food that goes ping!

Meatless Mondays, exactly what it says on the tin. Ditch meat once a week. Explore the use of pulses, vegetables and grains. Italian and Indian cuisines are particularly good for meals that deliver flavour and satiety without meat.

Potluck suppers, invite friends over. Don’t make it fancy, just ask folk to bring a dish – a pud, a salad, whatever and enjoy the experience of communal eating. Give it a theme – try something new. I love the Jewish Shabbat custom of Friday suppers for friends and family to come together.

Try new: food/ ingredient/ cuisine, I’m increasingly interested in the food of Northern Europe, the mix of spice, sweet, salt and sour in Danish smorgasbord and the wide range of breads and pastries found in Sweden.

Learn a new skill, I’ve said it before, but this year I really want to learn how to make bread. I’d also like to learn how to carve a chicken properly, as opposed to my usual “rustic” hacking… Other ideas might be to master pastry, make your own bacon, brew your own beer…

Plan ahead and waste less, I’m convinced I was once a starving peasant in the middle ages – how else to explain my manic hoarding of food?  (other than sheer greed, obviously…) No, 2014 is the year I USE the store cupboard and freezer contents up and achieve an enviable Nigel Slater like calm of shopping only for what I need and stop buying things “to have in”…

Happy New Year to you all – good health & good eating for 2014.